Tonsils and adenoids are masses of tissue that are similar to the lymph nodes or “glands” found in the neck, groin, and armpits. Tonsils are the two masses on the back of the throat. Adenoids are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth (soft palate) and are not visible through the mouth without special instruments.
A diagnosis for tonsils and adenoids may be:
- Physical exam:
- Your physician may examine your throat for swelling, redness, swelling, and white spots on your tonsils.
- Review of symptoms
Tonsils and adenoids are near the entrance to the breathing passages where they can catch incoming germs, which cause infections. They “sample” bacteria and viruses and can become infected themselves. Scientists believe they work as part of the body’s immune system by filtering germs that attempt to invade the body, and that they help to develop antibodies to germs.
This happens primarily during the first few years of life, becoming less important as we get older. Children who must have their tonsils and adenoids removed suffer no loss in their resistance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some patients will have more than one reason. Reasonings may be:
- Blockage of the back of the nose (they are too big):
- The adenoids may be large enough to cause "mouth breathing", snoring, or even sleep apnea (blockage of breathing during sleep).
- Chronic and recurrent fluid or infections of the ears:
- Adenoids may be enlarged or chronically infected to the extent that they cause ear problems, either recurrent infections or chronic fluid.
- Chronic or recurrent sinus infections or "rhinosinusitis"
Yes, the analogy that adenoids are sponges infected with bacteria that the immune system cannot kill is appropriate. The bacteria live in the tissue and spread out to normal tissue, retreating when antibiotics are given but never being eradicated probably due to diminished blood flow from scaring.